Over the past wee while, I’ve been working with Kate Davies and her team on their latest venture: Inspired by Islay. A quick scroll through old posts on this blog will show lots of content from Islay; I lived and worked there for a year in 2012-2013. My job involved Gaelic cultural-heritage with particular projects I initiated being about the connection between the landscape and language. It is on this topic that Kate asked me to contribute an essay to the book being produced as part of the project (sidenote: the book has gone to the printers!).
Kate’s work has long impressed me, and I’m chuffed that she has come to me to contribute small bits of work to other projects over the years, where she has wanted to use Gaelic. Gaelic aside, as a knitter and general culture/history-enthusiast I’m always impressed by the thought and consideration that goes into all she (and the wider KDD team) does and produces. Other folk contributing to Inspired by Islay include really astonishing artists, craftspeople, avian experts and photographers, so it is an honour to be included alongside them.
Anyway, the photos here are some snaps from my archive of pictures from Islay. My time on the island wasn’t always a song and a dance so it’s been really lovely revisiting parts of the island I fell for, and exploring further the rich Gàidhealach culture I am part of.
For all of Kate’s blog posts to date on the project see here.
In other news, I started a facebook page for my work. Like, share, comment, etc.
A rare chance to fly up over the Western Isles from Uist – Lewis. The weather wasn’t the best, and nor are my photos, but seeing the islands from the air emphasises just how watery and knobbly they are.
A few snaps from Summer so far.
If you happen to find yourself in Barra on your birthday, as I did recently, I recommend a trip to Kisimul Castle. The plan was originally to climb Rueval, but the rain came in, as did the mist. So, to Kisimul we went instead.
I was surprised by how little interpretation there was throughout the castle. Historic Scotland are not known for their lack of information panels – often quite the reverse. It’s nice being able to visit an historic site and to discover details in your own time, but equally having almost nothing to tell you about the place seems a bit sparse.
It’s a great wee castle. It’s currently being looked after by Historic Scotland, though belongs to the MacNeil family. It is, and was, the seat of the clan MacNeil and still holds a draw for MacNeils around the world. I don’t place much importance on what little remains of the clan system today but it’s easy to see why people would want to travel a distance to visit here.
There’s fantastic history to see at Kisimul, even more enticing by the fact that the early records were lost in a fire, so we know relatively little today. This is despite the castle’s stature and important place within the Medieval period.
If you’re in need of scran when you’re in Castlebay, Cafe Kisimul is delicious. Even better if you’re not paying. Hooray! http://www.cafekisimul.co.uk
Gently emerging from a Winter slumber. Yesterday marked the old New Year. It’s said in Gaelic that from then, each day lengthen’s by a cockerel’s step. “An-diugh, bithidh ceum coilich air an latha”.
Bliadhna mhath ur dhuibh uile. Happy new year, folks.
Last weekend, looking over to one of my favourite islands.
Dol fodha na grèine. Literally, in Gaelic, the sun going under.
Looking at any maps for this area gives an immediate indicator of the island’s past – placenames are littered with Norse words, as well as the expected Gaelic . This Norse influence takes a bit of getting used to but is good fun for a bit of decyphering.
Take a walk I did last weekend, for instance. I headed down to Caolas Paible. From there, I walked onto the beach Oitir Mòr. When I was on the beach, I looked directly out onto Eilean Chirceabost. I love this collection of names together. It shows so clearly the varied past of the islands, Gaidhealach and Viking visitors and settlers over thousands of years leaving their mark.
Caolas Paible : Kyles Paible
I found a great story in Dwelly about Paible. Who knows what element of truth there is in it, but it’s good fun all the same:
“Baile fada-gu-latha, the township of the long night (lit. the long-till-day township). The reference is to Paible, N. Uist. Long ago a stranger, happening to spend a night in the place, some mischievous lads covered up his bedroom window from the outside, with the result that the night was lengthened by many hours. Several times the astonished stranger was heard to mutter “b’ e seo am baile fada-gu-latha!” what a long-till-day township!”
Oitir Mòr: Oitir (pron. ‘aw-chir’) – sand bank Mòr (more)– big, large
Eilean Kirkibost: Eilean (ellen)– Island Kirk – church Bost – farm
Placenames aside, even in grey, overcast weather it’s beautiful.